Stories

John Nivison Carson (c1806 - 1890) & Agnes Herries (c1808 - 1879)

John Nivison Carson was born in around 1806 in the Parish of Penpont, Dumfriesshire. His parents were Agricultural Labourer William Carson, and Isabella Grierson, both of whom had been born in Dumfriesshire, although as no birth records have been located, the precise locations of their birthplaces are not known.

PENPONT, a parish and village, and the seat of a presbytery, in the county of Dumfries, 2 miles (W. S. W.) from Thornhill; containing 1266 inhabitants, of whom 492 are in the village. This parish is supposed to have derived its name from a very ancient bridge erected over the Scarr, of which the abutments rested on the summits of two precipitous rocks on opposite banks of the river, and which, from the singularity of its appearance, obtained the appellation of the "Hanging bridge." It is a place of great antiquity, and appears to have been a Roman station; the vestiges of a causeway may still be traced along the bank of the Scarr, and through the parish of Tynron, and there were also several forts, of which no vestiges now exist.

The village of Penpont is situated on the turnpike-road leading from New Galloway to Edinburgh, and consists of several clusters of houses which once formed the hamlets of Townhead, Brierbush, and Burnhead; the last is within half a mile of the Nith, and may be regarded as a suburb. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in agricultural and pastoral pursuits; but the smelting of old iron, and the making of spades and other implements, have been lately introduced, and afford employment to about four or five persons. There are, also, some good inns, and several small shops stored with various kinds of merchandise for the supply of the neighbourhood; and some of the inhabitants are employed in the usual handicraft trades. Fairs were formerly held on the third Tuesdays in March, June, and October, chiefly for hiring servants. Letters are forwarded from the post-office at Thornhill; and facility of communication is maintained by good turnpike-roads, and by bridges over the different streams, of which the ancient bridge across the Scarr, from which the parish is supposed to have taken its name, has been rebuilt. The ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of Penpont, who have their seat in the village, and the synod of Dumfries. The minister's stipend is £236. 6. 9., with a manse, and a glebe valued at £30 per annum; patron, the Duke of Buccleuch. The church, which is situated at the lower extremity of the parish, about 150 yards from the village, was built in 1782, and since substantially repaired at an expense of £340, including the session-house; it is a neat plain structure, partly cruciform, and contains 408 sittings. There are places of worship for Reformed Presbyterians and members of the Relief. Two parochial schools are supported, of which the masters have salaries of £27. 6. 6. and £24 respectively, with a house each, and one a small garden, in addition to the fees, which average £16 and £9: in one of these schools, the Greek and French languages are added to the usual routine.

Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)

1860s Map of Penpont Village1860s Map of Penpont VillageNational Library of Scotland

It is interesting to note that the minister of the Parish of Penpont at the time of John's birth was called John Nivison, and it is more than likely that William and Isabella Carson named their new son after him as a mark of respect. Indeed it is likely that the very same minister would have baptised young John.

Agnes Herries was born in March 1808 in the Parish of Dunscore, Dumfriesshire. She was the daughter of William Herries, born in 1770 in Cottack, Dunscore, and Jane Jardine. William earned his living as a Dyker.

DUNSCORE, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 9 miles (N. W.) from Dumfries; containing, with the village of Cottack, 1517 inhabitants.

Burns, the poet, resided for several years in the parish, at the farm of Elliesland.

Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)

Between 1788 and 1791, Robert Burns leased the farm at Ellisland in Dunscore, about 3 miles due east of Cottack, after which he moved to a house in the town of Dumfries where he died in 1796. It is intriguing to think that Agnes's father William was raised so close to where the gifted poet was living and created some of his great works.

John Carson and Agnes Herries married in around 1828. Once again, as no marriage record has been located, the date and location of the marriage remains unknown.

John and Agnes Carson started raising a family and at the time of the 1841 Census (7th June), John and Agnes, both recorded as 35 years old, were residing in Penpont Village with their 6 young children, William (12), Agnes (10), Jane (7), Robert (5), Margaret (3) and Janet (1). All had been born in Penpont. It is worth noting that at the 1841 Census, ages over 15 were usually (but not always) rounded down and recorded to the nearest multiple of 5.

Residing close by in Penpont Village were John's parents, the 75-year-old Agricultural Labourer, William Carson and his wife Isabella, recorded as aged 65. Also resident with their parents were John Carson's siblings - James (40), also an Agricultural Labourer, Margaret (40), and Mary (25). Additionally, there was 15-year-old William Carson and 4-year-old Thomas Carson who were Margaret's sons by unknown father or fathers. Young William would in time become known as William Brown. Finally, completing the family grouping is 1-year-old Margret Carson and we later learn that she is Mary's illegitimate daughter and will later be known as Margaret Hewet or Howitt.

Meanwhile, Agnes's parents were residing at Cottack, Dunscore. William Herries was recorded as 60 years old earning his living as a Stone Dyker, while Jane was 50.

At the 1851 Census (31st March), John Carson was still residing with his wife and family in Penpont Village. He is recorded as a 45-year-old Agricultural Labourer and Agnes was 43. John's eldest son, William, aged 20, was also an Agricultural Labourer. Next oldest, 15-year-old Robert, was employed as a Servant, no doubt working on a nearby farm. New additions to the family since the 1841 Census were John (7), Isabel (5), Barbara (3) and the 6-month-old Douglas Carson. John and Agnes's two eldest daughters, Agnes and Jane, were working away from the family home. Agnes (20) was residing at Eastside in the nearby parish of Kirkconnel and employed as a General Servant. Jane (18) was residing at Upper Barndenoch in the Parish of Glencairn and also employed as a General Servant.

Dumfriesshire Parish MapDumfriesshire Parish Map

Agnes's parents at this time were still residing in Cottack in Dunscore. William Herries was recorded as being 84 years old, a full 24 years older than his recorded age 10 years earlier. His occupation was recorded as Pauper Stonedyker. His wife Jane's age was given as 67. Also resident was their 38-year-old son John employed as an Agricultural Labourer.

Around this time, 1851, John's eldest daughter, Agnes Carson gave birth to an illegitimate son, William, by Farm Labourer John Girvan. William is later recorded as having been born in Penpont. 33-year-old John Girvan was residing in Kirkcudbright with his wife and four young children. Agnes reappears in the records when on 30th November 1855, the 25-year-old Domestic Servant married Farm Labourer John Smith in the Parish of Glencairn, Dumfriesshire.

On 25th November, 1859, the 25-year-old Jane Carson married John McGuffie in Penpont, Dumfriesshire.

At the time of the 1861 Census (8th April), the Carson family was still residing in Penpont. John's age was recorded as 56 and he was still an Agricultural Labourer, while Agnes was recorded as 55 years old. Robert (23) was now also an Agricultural Labourer, while Janet (19) and Isabella (15) are Farm Labourers. 13-year-old Barbara is 'At Home', while 11-year-old Douglas is a Scholar.

Also resident on Census night is William, John and Agnes's 10-year-old grandson, the child of Agnes Carson and John Girvan. It is not clear for how long young William would have been residing with John and Agnes Carson. It may have been a permanent arrangement or perhaps he was simply visiting around the time of the Census.

Eldest son William (32) was residing at Brierbush in Penpont with his wife Janet (35) (although no marriage record has been traced.) Janet was in fact the same Jessie McVeigh who was a witness to the marriage of William's sister Agnes to John Smith in 1855. Residing with them was John H. Johnston, Janet's son by her first marriage.

Missing son, 17-year-old John, was employed as a Servant on a local farm named 'Boage.'

Agnes's parents were still residing in Cottack in Dunscore. Their address was given as the King's Arms Hotel. Remarkably, William Herries was recorded as 99 years old and Occupation as 'Independent for Life'. Jane was 85. Also resident was their 48-year-old son John, employed as a Labourer.

The King's Arms was a very small hotel in Cottack. Today the building is known as King's Arms Cottage and is used as a holiday let.

Location of King's Arms in CottackLocation of King's Arms in CottackNational Library of Scotland

King's Arms Cottage in Dunscore todayKing's Arms Cottage in Dunscore todayGoogle Street View

Just a few months later, William Herries, Farmer, died, age reported as 100, in Cottack, Dunscore, on 7th August, 1861. In fact William was born on 17th May, 1770 and was 91 when he passed away. The Cause of Death was Exhaustion or Old Age and Infirmity. His son-in-law George Linn reported the death and stated that William's parents were William Herries, Labourer and Agnes Drummond.

1861 Death Record of William Herries1861 Death Record of William HerriesScotland's People

On 22nd November 1861 Margaret Carson married William Clark in the Parish of Kirkpatrick Durham, Kirkcudbrightshire, and on 20th November 1863, Robert Carson married Elizabeth Pagan in the Parish of Keir, Dumfriesshire.

In Penpont on 17th June, 1864, Janet Carson married Labourer Alexander Malcomson, son of the late James Malcomson, a Farm Servant, and Isabella Gourlay. A witness to the marriage was John Carson, most likely Janet's brother. Janet's father John's occupation was given as Labourer.

At Howmoor Village, Parish of Parton, Kirkcudbrightshire, on 2nd December, 1864, it was John's turn to marry. He married Domestic Servant Susan Malcolmson, the sister of Alexander. Again, John Carson Sr.'s occupation was given as Labourer.

On 19th October, 1866 Isabella Carson married William Gourlay in Penpont.

Agnes's mother Jane Herries née Jardine died, age recorded as 86, at Cottack, Dunscore on 24th June, 1867. The Cause of Death was recorded as Palsy from which she had suffered for 2 years. Her son John reported her death and gave his father William Herries's occupation as Farmer. Agnes's parents were recorded as David Jardine, Farm Labourer, and Elizabeth Boyes. Elsewhere David's wife is recorded as Grizel or Grace Boyes.

1867 Death Record of Jane Herries née Jardine1867 Death Record of Jane Herries née JardineScotland's People

On 17th November 1867, Jessie Carson, wife of Labourer William Carson,died of Apoplexy at Brierbush in the Parish of Penpont. Jessie had been born Janet McVaigh, daughter of Owen McVaigh, Labourer, and Agnes Smith.

In Penpont, on 8th March, 1870, John and Agnes Crosbie's widowed eldest son William was married for the second time. He married Margaret Menzies and one of the witnesses to the marriage was his 19-year-old youngest brother Douglas.

At the time of the 1871 Census (3rd April), the Carson household was still resident in the village of Penpont but had by now dwindled down to 4 in number. John, recorded as 67, was now a Stone Quarrier,and Agnes was 65. Youngest daughter Barbara was 22, unmarried and apparently without employment. Also resident was another grandson of John and Agnes, 10-year-old William Clark, a Scholar, who had been born in Penpont. He was the son of Margaret Carson and William Clark and had been born in around 1861.

Next door to John and Agnes was William Carson, the grandson who had been residing with them at the 1861 Census. He was employed as a Hedger and had married Agnes Kirk on 23rd November, 1869. Also present was their daughter, Isabella, who had been born on 7th December, 1869. Isabella was therefore the great grandchild of John and Agnes.

Meanwhile, Douglas Carson, now aged 20, was working as an Agricultural Labourer at Glengarr Farm in the Parish of Penpont.

On 23rd May, 1876, Douglas Carson, at this time working as a Ploughman, married 23-year-old Farm Servant Mary Crosbie at Fardingjames Cottage, Keir, in Dumfriesshire.

On 16th August, 1877, Barbara Carson died in Penpont Village of Congestion of the Brain and Coma. Her father John registered the death. She had never married.

On 24th October, 1879, Agnes Carson, daughter of William Herries, Dyker, and Jane Jardine, died at Penpont Village, Dumfriesshire. The Cause of Death was recorded as Supposed Paralysis although there was no medical attendant. Her widower, John Carson, registered the death.

1879 Death Record of Agnes Carson née Herries1879 Death Record of Agnes Carson née HerriesScotland's People

At the time of the 1881 Census (4th April) the 81-year-old widower, John Nivison Carson, was residing alone at Back Close, Penpont. Nevertheless, immediate neighbours were his sons William and Robert with their wives and families. Another immediate neighbour in Back Close was his sister Margaret's son Thomas with his family.

On 10th May, 1890, John Nivison Carson died at age 90 in Kirkbride, Durisdeer, Dumfriesshire. This was the same address at which John's daughter Jane was residing with her husband Robert McGuffie and family in the Census of 1891. The cause of death was simply Old Age, although there was no medical attendant. His son-in-law, Robert McGuffie, registered the death

1890 Death Record of John Nivison Carson1890 Death Record of John Nivison CarsonScotland's People

Modern-day Penpont (click for video) is a small but thriving village in the beautiful area of mid-Nithsdale in Dumfries and Galloway in Southwest Scotland.

Unusually for a place of its size, it still has its church and primary school, a post office and tearoom, a general store, a service garage, a bus service and an active community council.

Each year there is a week long Gala held in the first week of July.

It also has a rich and generally well-recorded history, which includes its main claim to fame as the birthplace of the remarkable African explorer, Joseph Thomson.

Penpont Heritage

Penpont VillagePenpont Village